Blog post

6 takeaways from RBC in New York

A special edition with Jack Stratten from Insider Trends, deep diving into the future roles of physical stores.

  • Topic
    Retail trends

The NRF whirlwind always takes the retail world by storm and this year is just the same. Retail’s Big Show in New York City has once again dazzled with innovation, ideas, and inspiration.

As part of the event, we held a special edition of our Retail Breakfast Club with Jack Stratten from Insider Trends where we took a deep dive into the future roles of physical stores and how to turn that future into a reality. 

Here’s our top takeaways from the event:

1. Have absolute clarity of purpose

As we’ve said before, all shopping is now cross-channel. It’s not clicks or bricks, it’s both, forever. But it’s not quite as simple as that. To thrive and be successful stores have to be and do more than they’ve traditionally ever done before. And to do this you need to be crystal clear on the purpose of your stores and the role they play in your business.

Just because all shopping is cross-channel, it doesn’t mean that ecom isn’t still booming. It is. And, what’s more, tech is helping create more opportunities for digital sales to take place. Just look at the collab between gaming platform, Roblox, and skate fashion royalty, Vans. In ‘VansWorld’ players can customize their own gear which they can then buy and have shipped straight to their door. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and it’s innovative. It’s this kind of experience that physical stores are competing against.

With clarity of purpose you’ll know exactly what your stores are for, the role they play in supporting your customers, and where they fit in your omnichannel offering.

2. Don’t get stuck in the middle

Typically, stores now need to do two things. They either need to provide customers with ultra convenience or they need to create memorable experiences (or, ideally, they need to do both). What we’re seeing is that the retailers who get stuck in the middle are the ones failing. 

If you can’t provide shoppers with the level of convenience that is better (or at least matches) ecom and you’re not giving them a memorable experience then your stores will slowly die. You need a point of difference and need to do everything you can to avoid getting dragged down into the swamp of the muddy middle.

Look at the example of Argos in the UK. A decade ago they were struggling to compete - especially with Amazon. Now, thanks to forward thinking and investment in technology, they are thriving with stores popping up in locations that are super convenient for their shoppers. From the customers perspective, if they can go to a store ten minutes away from their home to pick up a lightbulb then they are much more likely to do that than have one they’ve bought online shipped halfway around the country in the back of a truck. The added bonus of this is it’s not only good for the consumer, it’s way more sustainable.

3. If you’re going for an experience then make it memorable 

Offering ultra convenience is an easy one to understand but what about the other end of the spectrum? What really is a stand-out experience? Here’s a clue, it’s much more than offering your customers free cups of coffee. Stores that go all in on experience become destinations in their own right. 

One of the examples Jack Stratten used was the Tony Chocolonely store in Amsterdam. This Willy Wonka inspired chocolate wonderland brings the brand to life and is a place where customers can do everything from creating their own chocolate bar through to learning about how to make a positive impact on the cocoa industry. Not only does the store delight customers, it also sells an awful lot of chocolate. It’s a win win.

4. Your stores can be anything you want them to be

Community hubs, entertainment venues, PR and marketing platforms…you name it and your stores can do it. By going beyond the traditional purpose of a physical store, you can make them work far harder for you and have a much bigger impact - especially on driving both loyalty and sales. Luxury cycling fashion brand Rapha runs its cycling club out of its ‘clubhouses’ around the world. By bringing together an active community of cyclists who share a love of riding - and having a whole host of benefits that come with being a member of the club - Rapha not only builds loyalty but also creates a completely captive audience that are super easy to sell to.

5. Your soul needs to shine

If your physical stores are the heart of your business, then your store associates are the soul - and your soul needs to shine. Your store staff aren’t there to simply take a sale. Afterall, it’s simple for self-checkout systems to do that. Your associates are now storytellers, performers, orators, guides, superstars and heroes. Their role is changing and evolving so fast, it’s your job to empower them with the tools and information they need to truly shine and deliver for your business.

6. Tech make the possibilities endless

To go back to the start, if we’re ready for liftoff then we better make sure we have the right tools to help us reach the stars. In this case, the tech you choose to power your business will lay the foundations for your success. 

With the right technology and software in place then the possibilities you have are endless. Software built on MACH principles, puts the power in your hands and lets you run your business on your terms.

The software you choose - whether it’s a CRM, ecom, footfall counter or a Unified Commerce Platform anchored by Point of Sale (POS) - and your IT architecture, play essential roles in helping you deliver the kind of experiences your customers desire.

Strategic investments in tech and in your stores will change the game and equip you for the next-generation of retail and unified commerce - where you are the one in control.

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